DAKTARI Bush School & Wildlife Orphanage

The mission of Daktari is to inspire, motivate, and educate underprivileged children to care for their environment through the medium of a wildlife orphanage.
Jan 10, 2014

The first 24 kids of 2014 have been funded!!

Feeding Maxi, the bushbuck
Feeding Maxi, the bushbuck

All we can say is WOW! Over a period of 6 weeks, with your help, we managed to raise an incredible $4349.25 to fund the first 24 children of 2014 to visit DAKTARI. We cannot thank you enough for your contribution towards this Christmas campaign!!

It was our hope to welcome children to DAKTARI from January 13th, as soon as the holidays were over, but our local schools would prefer all the children to return for a regular week of education at the beginning of the school year. We have to agree that this is probably best for the children, many of whom will be starting the school year in a higher grade. So, this means that the first 8 children will arrive for environmental education on January 20th and we are very excited to begin the teaching program again.

DAKTARI has created an education program that gives under-privileged youths the opportunity to become passionate about wildlife and conservation. It also allows them to receive the one-on-one support and attention that they so deperately need.

The Limpopo Province, where we operate, is known as one of the poorest, least educated areas in South Africa, with an estimated 78.9% of the population living below the national poverty line. In our local schools, there are often more than 50 students per class, allowing little opportunity for individual support. This means that many children get 'left behind' in the school system. In 2010, only 48% of school leavers passed their Matriculation exam (graduated), so it comes as no surprise that the unemployment rate in 2011 was estimated at 39.5%.* Of course, poverty plays a huge role in the destruction of the environment here in Limpopo, with locals looking to poaching and chopping trees as a means to support their families.

DAKTARI's mission is to educate and inspire our local underprivileged children to care for their environment through the medium of a wildlife orphanage. We want to encourage these youths to develop compassion for animals and to understand the economic benefits of conservation. Ultimately, we want to help these children to secure good employment within game lodges/reserves or in other eco-tourism roles. This is what you have contributed towards!

So what does a week of environmental education at DAKTARI look like? Each Monday we welcome 8 children for a 5-day visit. During their stay, the children experience daily hands-on interaction with the animals in our care, including feeding, cleaning, enrichment and dog walks. They also receive structured lessons on conservation topics, such as The Environment, Plastics, Animal Knowledge, Hunting & Poaching and Water Testing. They are taken on a bush walk with a trained field guide to discover animal tracks and trees and to learn more about the environment. They are also taken on a tour of a nearby game lodge to learn about the different job opportunities available to them in eco-tourism and to experience the thrill of a game drive. We have included some additional discussions on a variety of topics, like Politeness, Respect, Alcohol & Substance Abuse and Safe Sex, as these are important issues for teenagers in our locality and can have a profound effect on their employability and health in the future. Maths and English are also supported through fun and games. All of this is what you are making possible with your donation!!

In the next report, you will be able to read about the children who have directly benefited from your support. We can't wait to share their stories and happy faces with you!!

Until then, we wish you a very Happy New Year. Thanks again for making a difference!

*Statistics from statssa.gov.za and education.gov.za

Everybody on a bushwalk
Everybody on a bushwalk
The children take a tour of a game lodge
The children take a tour of a game lodge
Water testing
Water testing

Links:

Dec 4, 2013

Relocating Herbie, the bushpig

Herbie on a walk with Louise
Herbie on a walk with Louise

A year ago, we began fundraising for our bushpig, Herbie. Through kind donations, we raised an incredible $3000 to build a special home for him. As you were a contributor to this project, I wanted to give you an update on Herbie and all that has happened since.

As you may remember, Herbie was entrusted into our care by Moholoholo Wildlife Rehabilitation Centre. At this time, he was only about 4 months old, very cute and very playful. Being a hybrid of bushpig and domestic pig, we really didn’t know what to expect as he grew older – how big would he get, what would his temperament be like?

Herbie moved into his new pad in March 2013 and it is fair to say that he loved his new enclosure, making full use of all the extra space, the toys, the mud baths and his ‘bedroom’. For a long time, he continued to go on walks with the DAKTARI dogs and swim in the dam, but as he matured he became reluctant to go too far from his food bowl! However, he was still taken on daily walks around the camp for enrichment and exercise, something that he looked forward to very much.

It seems that the bushpig genes were dominant in Herbie and with the onset of maturity came hormones and aggression. In April 2013, our local wildlife vet, Peter Rogers, performed an operation to castrate Herbie. The purpose of this was to reduce his aggression, but also to prevent any breeding if he should ever be released. The operation was a great success, with the children at DAKTARI able to watch and ask questions, allowing them to understand the problems that can occur when two different species are bred together. Herbie’s behaviour improved significantly after this and it was our hope that he would live out his days happily at DAKTARI.

But the truth is that wild animals can be very unpredictable, even when they are only ‘half’ wild and have been hand-raised. There have a few instances this year where Herbie has taken his frustration out on our volunteers and staff, both inside and outside of his enclosure. It was decided that, apart from the one or two volunteers who regularly took him for walks, it was not safe to be in contact with him anymore. Of course, as a sociable creature, this was very sad for Herbie. Despite his aggressive tendencies, he really does love company and human interaction. It also meant that his daily walks were limited to shorter periods of time, because it was not safe for the volunteers and children to be around when Herbie was out of his enclosure.

With reluctance, we had to accept that perhaps DAKTARI could no longer offer Herbie the life that he so badly needed, one that allowed him to roam and forage to his heart’s content. We knew of a cattle farm not too far from DAKTARI where we had previously released some young warthogs. The farm is absolutely massive, with no dangerous predators and little risk of human contact. It was decided that this was the best option for Herbie and, with a sad heart, we set about making a plan to transport him.

To his credit, Herbie was no trouble at all when the time came. He got into his cage with no fuss, continued eating his breakfast while we lifted him onto the pick-up (4 strong men and a couple of ladies helped with this!) and then he settled down for the journey. I sat in the back with him the whole way, talking to him for comfort. Apart from a brief moment of car sickness, he handled the 45 minute trip very well.

At the farm, we drove to a particularly muddy-looking water hole for Herbie’s release. He came out of his cage with a minimum of fuss, not at all phased by his new surroundings. I shared a banana with him and we explored the edge of the mud hole. Before leaving, I scattered some of his favourite dog food around to keep him occupied. As we drove away, he didn’t even look up - he was too busy foraging! All in all, I think it was much harder for me than it was for him.

Herbie has had several ‘mothers’ since coming to DAKTARI, mainly Risette, Katrien and finally myself, but I know that there were many others who loved him and helped with his care. For us, it is difficult to accept that our baby has grown up and needs to find his own way in the wild, but this was the right thing to do.

Of course, Herbie’s enclosure (and your contribution to it!) will not be wasted. We have already cleaned the enclosure out, ready for the admission of the next ‘hog in need’.

Thank you again for your support and interest in Herbie. He has had many happy months in his special enclosure. We hope that he will have many happy years roaming about in the bush, like a proper bushpig should!

Herbie
Herbie's operation in April
Herbie is loaded onto the pick-up
Herbie is loaded onto the pick-up
Herbie arrives at his new home
Herbie arrives at his new home
Louise and Herbie say good-bye
Louise and Herbie say good-bye
Freedom!
Freedom!

Links:

Dec 2, 2013

Happy Holidays from DAKTARI

Amy and I, spreading Christmas cheer in Hoedspruit
Amy and I, spreading Christmas cheer in Hoedspruit

Greetings from all of us here at DAKTARI. We hope that you are all well and getting excited about the approaching festive season!

As always, I want to say a huge THANK YOU for your continued support and interest in DAKTARI.

Before I get started on the latest news from camp, I want to let you know about a very special opportunity coming up on GlobalGiving on TUESDAY 3RD DECEMBER!! Two of our projects - our Christmas 'Sponsor a Child' campaign and our Outreach Programme's 'Eco Clubs' project - have been selected for YouthSpark, sponsored by Microsoft, which means that they can receive 100% MATCHED DONATIONS. Matching will begin at 12pm EST. That's 17:00 in the UK, 18:00 for most of Europe and 19:00 in South Africa. Donors in other countries can check the time here. So, if you're thinking about making a Christmas donation to DAKTARI and you want the opportunity to DOUBLE YOUR CONTRIBUTION, here's your chance.*

Since the last report at the beginning of September, you guys have donated over $850 through GlobalGiving. This is absolutely amazing, enough to cover the cost of environmental education for 5 children!! What is even more special is that almost all of these have been recurring donations, meaning that most of you are supporting DAKTARI on a monthly basis – we cannot thank you enough!!

We have been especially busy over the past couple of months, first of all with a French film crew coming to make a documentary about DAKTARI. Although not without it’s challenges, this was such a great opportunity for us to showcase the vital work that we do here. Seeing DAKTARI through the eyes of the film crew also reminded us of how truly special this project is and how proud we all are of what we are achieving. The documentary is due to be aired soon on French TV channel TF1 – keep an eye out on our Facebook page for more details.

Another exciting event has been Shiloweni’s annual check-up with wildlife vet, Peter Rogers. As well as monitoring the overall health of our leopard, this gives the children and volunteers an opportunity to get up close and personal with this magnificent animal. For the children, especially, this is a once-in-a-life-time experience, one that they couldn’t wait to tell their friends and family about. For the full report on Shiloweni’s check-up, please click here.

Another creature who has been teaching the children more about his kind is Hedwig, our baby Spotted Eagle Owl. Hedwig fell from the nest at a very young age and would have died without human intervention. Now safe at DAKTARI, this odd-looking ball of feathers is helping to change the perception of the kids, many of whom are afraid of owls due to local superstitions.

Of course, it’s not just the animals that are doing a great job of educating the children. We recently welcomed back 2 students from our Outreach Programme to help out at DAKTARI as volunteers. Having continued their environmental studies at Eco Club over the past few years, Ashandy and Tiras were able to share their knowledge and assist the international volunteers with the teaching programme. Not only was this valuable for DAKTARI, but it was also a great experience for Ashandy and Tiras, allowing them to develop their confidence and abilities as young adults and giving them some work experience to add to their CVs.

Marketing volunteer, Amy, and I will be outside PicknPay in Hoedspruit with Eco Club member, Jeremiah, over the Christmas period talking to the local community about DAKTARI and selling some lovely Christmas gifts to raise funds and spread awareness. If you are in the area on December 21st, please come and say hello – we would love to meet you!

So, until the next report, from everyone here at DAKTARI, we wish you a very merry holiday season and a happy new year!!

*Matched funding will begin at 12pm EST on Tuesday 3rd December. Check the time in your country here.

There is $250,000 available in matched funding and matching will continue for 24 hours or until these funds run out.

Only the following DAKTARI projects have been selected for YouthSpark: Christmas Gift – Sponsor a Child and Environmental Clubs for Kids in South Africa.

Matching will be applied up to $1000 per unique donor.

Ian and Michele with the French fim crew
Ian and Michele with the French fim crew
Michele and the children meet Shiloweni
Michele and the children meet Shiloweni
Tiras and Kobe feed baby owl, Hedwig
Tiras and Kobe feed baby owl, Hedwig
Eco Club member, Ashandy, teaches the kids
Eco Club member, Ashandy, teaches the kids
Jeremiah, from Eco Club, speaks to the community
Jeremiah, from Eco Club, speaks to the community

Links:

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